mother tongue

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English[edit]

Noun[edit]

mother tongue (plural mother tongues)

  1. The language one first learned; the language one grew up with; one's native language.
    • 1973, Noel Pitts Gist & ‎Roy Dean Wright, Marginality and Identity, ISBN 9004036385:
      Throughout their long history as a minority, Anglo-Indians learned their "father tongue" but were indifferent to their "mother tongue," an indigenous Indian language.
    • 1993, Janice Rae Williamson, Sounding differences: conversations with seventeen Canadian women writers, ISBN 0802068081:
      A father tongue is a foreign language, therefore English is a foreign language not a mother tongue.
    • 2011, Wendy Doniger, The Implied Spider, ISBN 023152711X, page 144:
      Ramanujan has also argued that many Hindu men have both a mother tongue (the everyday language, such as Tamil, spoken by women downstairs, in the back, in the kitchen) and a father tongue (once Sanskrit, more recently English, the literary lingua franca spoken—or at least discussed—by men in the front rooms).
    • 2012, Máiréad Nic Craith, Narratives of Place, Belonging and Language, ISBN 023035551X:
      In the early Middle Ages, 'mother tongue' was largely 'a pejorative term to describe the unlearned language of women and children' (Haugen 1991: 82). This reflected the low status of women in society and contrasted with Latin, the more prestigious 'father tongue' on the continent.
  2. The language spoken by one’s ancestors.
  3. The language spoken by one's mother, when it differs from that spoken by one's father.
    • 2006, Yo Jackson, Encyclopedia of Multicultural Psychology, ISBN 1452265569:
      Questions about respondents' place of birth, their parents' place of birth, nativity, and language use (called “mother tongue” and “father tongue”) were added to the Census between 1850 and 1960.
    • 2008 -, Xiao-Lei Wang, Growing Up with Three Languages: Birth to Eleven, ISBN 1847691064, page 58:
      Informed by the experience of other parents who had successfully raised their children with more than one language and our own observations, we knew clearly that Léandre and Dominique's mother tongue and father tongue would not have a chance without deliberate 'control' of their linguistic environment.
  4. Informal speech, as opposed to educated language.
    • 1854, Henry David Thoreau, Walden, or Life in the Woods:
      The other is the maturity and experience of that; if that is our mother tongue, this is our father tongue, a reserved and select expression, too significant to be heard by the ear, which we must be born again in order to speak.
    • 1992, Gail B. Griffin, Calling : essays on teaching in the mother tongue, page 169:
      We learn the father tongue to prove we have outgrown the mother tongue.
    • 2017, Andrew Norris, Becoming Who We Are, ISBN 0190673958:
      In each case, we are reborn -- a fact that explains Thoreau's preference here for the father tongue over the mother tongue, as Cavell explains: "A son of man is born of woman; but rebirth, according to our Bible, is the business of the father."

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